Deciding to change careers can seem daunting. Where do you start? In this article, the author offers four concrete ways to ease the transition: 1) Start by mapping the terrain. Read the bios and LinkedIn profiles of fast-rising senior leaders or peers and reverse engineer the path they followed. This will allow you, if you wish, to draw up a similar roadmap. 2) Recognize that you will have to take the initiative. 3) Network to give you optionality. As a new entrant to your field, you may have landed on a suboptimal company (for example, one with a toxic work environment or declining fortunes) without realizing it, because an industry is likely to be easier for outsiders to enter. in a company. that the interns are avoiding. So go wide, because if your initial landing pad doesn’t fit, you’ll want to switch quickly. 4) Identify emerging opportunities. If you can become the go-to person in an area that is growing in importance, you can often build a career around it.
When professionals reinvent themselves, they often feel like they have to start from scratch and that their previous connections and experiences don’t count in their new field. Your skills and network are probably more transferable than you think. But it’s also true that you may feel confused for a while as you orient yourself to the way things work in your new career.
As I found out through my book research reinventing yourselfHere are four strategies for building a career for yourself in your new venture, even if you’re still figuring things out.
map the terrain.
In the early days of building a career in a new field, you may be unsure of the key questions: Which skills or behaviors are rewarded and which lead to career stalling? How long does it typically take to rise to a leadership position? What should you expect? Even if it’s an arduous process, things will feel more under control once you get a sense of typical patterns, like “Senior leaders almost always have a background in finance” or “It usually takes X years to get promoted to CEO.” vice president”. Conduct informational interviews and don’t be afraid to ask your manager or colleagues what traits the most successful people in your company or industry share. You can also read the biographies and LinkedIn profiles of fast-rising senior leaders or colleagues and reverse engineer the path they followed. This will allow you to put together a similar roadmap if you wish.
Recognize that you will have to take the initiative.
In the past, companies often had clear career paths for their employees: You walked up the escalator after college and, assuming you performed adequately, simply walked out 30 years later, smoothly whisked up to a higher rung and pay range. For better or worse, that uniform, standardized experience has all but disappeared from contemporary corporate life, though many employees don’t realize it.
A frequent theme in my work as a speaker is that companies invite me during their “career month” activities to help explain to employees that they need to proactively raise their hands to pursue the opportunities they want, and that there will likely be many more lateral movements. (to new geographies, functional roles, and more), rather than a steep, semi-guaranteed ascent in a narrow area. As a new entrant to a field, you’ll stay ahead of the competition if you recognize early on that you’ll need to plan and work for your advancement, rather than things moving in unison without your active involvement.
Network to give you option.
If you are entering a new field, chances are your network is not yet very developed in this area. Duplicate to correct this, for three reasons. First, in the early days of a new career, you may not yet have an idea of exactly where you fit in. For example, you might enter the marketing field with a job focused on social media, but then find that you prefer to focus on long-form content. Networking allows you to discover facets of your new field that you might not even have known about, and where you could ultimately excel.
Second, it’s important to keep in mind that you must consciously cultivate your network both inside and outside of your company. As a new entrant to your field, you may have landed on a suboptimal company (for example, one with a toxic work environment or declining fortunes) without realizing it, because an industry is likely to be easier for outsiders to enter. in a company. that the interns are avoiding. So go wide, because if your initial landing pad doesn’t fit, you’ll want to switch quickly.
Finally, most jobs are found through “weak link” connections. Especially if you’ll be in this field for the long haul, the compound value of building relationships early on is substantial, because these are the people who will be alerting you to job openings 10 years from now.
Identify emerging opportunities.
One of the best ways to build a career for yourself is to invent one. in my book Stand out, I profile Mike Lydon, a young urban planner who successfully launched his own company, in the midst of the economic turmoil of the Great Recession, thanks to his expertise in tactical urbanism, a new development in his field. Because it was an emerging trend, no other company had yet cornered the market and Mike was able, through extensive curation of case studies and sharing them widely, to quickly become a recognized expert and without going head-to-head with the industry giants. . . If he can become the go-to person in an area that is growing in importance, he can often build a career around it.
Life, it is true, would be much simpler if we could follow predetermined races. But these days, that’s usually not an option. We need to identify or create them, and aggressively pursue them. It may sound exhausting, like one more task we have to take on, but it is also an opportunity to design a career that better reflects our own interests and talents. By following these four strategies, you’ll be much more likely to end up with the long-term career you want.